Monday, November 23, 2009

For the Birder on Your Gift List

Family and friends sometimes despair finding an appropriate gift for the bird mad. I don't know why as it seems a fairly straightforward proposition to me. But for those who struggle in this area, here are some ideas (and if you're a birder with family members who tell you you're hard to shop for, feel free to leave a copy of this blog laying about.)

Let me say first that just because your gift has a bird on it, doesn't mean your birding friend will like it. I have been on the receiving end of some truly ugly bird stuff that the giver has been convinced I would love because a bird was on the item somewhere. Although your friend will appreciate the thought, but if you think it's ugly, the chances are he/she will too.

Next you need to consider what type of birder your friend is. Whether your birding friend is a casual birder or obsessive. New to the hobby or been doing it for years. Someone who enjoys watching birds in their backyard or likes to tromp the fields in search of a lifer. Whatever category they fall into, there is something on the following list they'll enjoy.

Here are some ideas almost any bird lover would like:
- Subscription to a birding magazine (be careful here--they are likely to have some subsciptions already, but no one is likely to subscribe to them all. Too much money involved in that. Do a little snooping and see which magazines they get and choose another--some popular choices include: Birds and Blooms, Birdwatchers Digest, and Birder's World.)
- A new field guide. No one has enough field guides. Your friend probably has at least 3 already. If you think they have several, you might consider a specialty guide, covering one species or family (Hawks, sparrows, shorebirds, etc.) in detail. If you think they may have every bird field guide known to mankind, consider a subscription to Birds of North America Online. It contains a lot of information not in field guides and includes video and sound clips.
- Audio CDs and DVDs: A CD of bird songs or a DVD about birds (David Attenborough's The Life of Birds is a great choice.) If they have an iphone, the bird sound app would be appreciated.
- Field gear: hiking boots, rain gear, a hat, walking stick, backpack or a vest would all be warmly received by the field birder.
- Bird feeders, bird baths, and bird food. For the birder who likes to watch birds through the window, feeders and feed can be expensive.
- Bird books and classes. Most of us like to learn more about our feathered friends and a good book on a yucky cold day is wonderful. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a couple of bird courses many birders would love to take. They're a little pricey, but worth every penny.
- Membership to a birding related organization like Audubon or the Cornell Lab or Ornithology. They'll know they are helping birds and receive a magazine and other interesting items. Or membership in an organization of birders--the local bird club or the Texas Ornithological Society.
- For the person who doesn't want any more stuff: they would appreciate a donation to a birding related organization made on their behalf. You might consider Wild Bird Rescue if you're looking for a local organization (or a similar organization in your area) or perhaps to preserve habitat for birds (an example would be the sanctuary fund of the Texas Ornithological Society.)
- Bird friendly plants for the yard to attract more birds.
- Bird art, stationery, etc are also much appreciated.
- Camera equipment for those who enjoy photography.
- Optical equipment. This is at the high end of the price range and birders tend to be picky about their binoculars and spotting scopes, so it might be better to offer a gift certificate. But if you want to take the plunge, try for great prices. For the average birder, a good pair of 8 x 42 binoculars will work. Consider the person you're buying for. My husband bought me a nice pair of 10 x 50 binoculars one year on the theory that more is better. The problem was that the binoculars were heavy, and I couldn't hold them steady enough to get a clear image. Also, as much as I might love a real nice pair of binoculars, the fact is that I am a klutz and drop or bump my binoculars on a regular basis--not good for a delicate instrument. I need sturdy and serviceable. He let me pick my last pair, so we were both happy.
- Birding trips or events. Again this can be pricey, depending upon where you go, but you can swing travel, food, field trips and hotel for one of the TOS meetings for a few hundred dollars.

I hope this gives you lots of ideas for that not-so-hard-to-shop-for birding enthusiast on your list.

Good birding!

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